Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, said his conference will be presenting different options to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for the 2011-12 budget on how many prison beds could be cut and which prisons could be closed. In doing so, it’s important that upstate communities be protected. Republicans will propose how to reduce as many as 3,500 prison beds statewide, the equivalent of five or six prisons, he said.
Cuomo’s budget recommended setting up a prison closure and consolidation committee that would be in place 30 days after the budget is approved. The state would provide affected communities up to $100 million for economic development.
Many state prisons are located in upstate New York — where Senate districts primarily are represented by Republicans — and are seen as vital to keeping the economy going and jobs available. Senate Republicans have said they are concerned about ceding control over which prisons would be closed or consolidated to a commission. Cuomo wants the commission to make recommendations to the Legislature, which would have to approve them or vote them down in their entirety.
Skelos said Senate Republicans would be presenting the options to the governor today.
“It’s going to be done throughout the different regions, as the governor has recommended,” Skelos said on an Albany radio station this morning. “It’s not going to be just picking on Democrat districts. It’s going to be closures in both Republican and Democrat districts.”
“And I should point out,” he added, “when everything was controlled by Democrats, the only closures were in Republican districts.”
Skelos said he doesn’t think the prison closures issue is a big one for the Democratic-led Assembly, “but they obviously have to be in agreement.”
The state union that represents correction officers is against Cuomo’s plan and has said the administration’s statistics on the number of vacant beds is incorrect.